Jesus' Baptism: Matthew
John the Baptist was down by the River Jordan, preaching a message of repentance because the kingdom of heaven had drawn near, the kingdom of God–it was close. People left and right were coming to this man dressed in camels hair. He was living off the land eating locusts and wild honey and people were turning away from their way of life and being baptized into this Kingdom that John was proclaiming. On the river banks though stood the religious elite, the Sadducees and Pharisees. They had come to see what John was up to but John didn't have very nice words for them. To nicely put it, he called them out for being fakes. They didn't have the fruit in their life that would have been the result of what they had claimed.
But in this middle of all this, Jesus shows up, The one John Had been proclaiming all along. And you can imagine all eyes were on him. What would he say? What would he do? Would he stand on the sidelines with the religious elite? After all, he really did have all things figured out. Would he step into the river and start baptizing others alongside John?
No. Jesus does the one thing that no one sees coming. Jesus convinces John to baptize him, telling him that it was appropriate to do so to fulfill all righteousness. John finally relents and baptizes Jesus, and when Jesus comes out of the water it was evident that God in all his fullness, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was present in that moment, signaling something significant that had begun.
But what does this story actually tell us about who Jesus is? It tells us that Jesus isn't content standing on the sidelines with the religious elite who think they've got it all together. Instead, Jesus wades into the mess, he wades into the water to be with people who readily admit they don't have it all figure out. In a prophetic moment, Jesus instead chooses to be with the common people, taking on their sin, plunging it into this watery grave only to rise up again into the fullness of God where God says, I'm pleased. The Jesus who loves us is the one who wades into the waters with us.
Setting John the Baptist is baptizing people in the Jordan River after they confess their sins.
- John the Baptist, a voice of one crying out in the wilderness
- Pharisees and Sadducees who would have seen themselves above others because of their own self sufficiency and self reliance
- Those coming to be baptizing, believing John’s message that the Kingdom of Heaven (God) was at hand
- Jesus who comes to John for baptism to fulfill all righteousness
- The trinitarian image of God after Jesus comes out of the water signifying that God is with him, and Jesus is squarely with the people, so God is with us.
Tension We have a group of people, Sadducees and Pharisees, who see themselves as too good for what John is proclaiming. They don’t need what John has because they believe they’re already there. On the flip side, we have the God of all Creation, Jesus, submitting himself to John’s baptism “to fulfill all righteousness.” How can either of these be?
Resolution Jesus doesn’t need to be baptized. But it’s appropriate for him to be baptized along with those recognizing their need of a Messiah.
Reflection There’s something beautiful about Jesus going into the water with us. Jesus want’s to be right there with us, not watching from the sidelines. That says something about who Jesus is.
The Herald of the Christ
3 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” [The Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of God, turning away from our way of life for God’s way of life is the way into this Kingdom] 3 For he is the one spoken of through the prophet Isaiah, who said:
A voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight!
4 Now John had a camel-hair garment with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 **Then people from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the vicinity of the Jordan were going out to him, **6 and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. [We have to admit our inadequacy to experience God’s forgiveness, God’s kingdom. True freedom can only be found in confession.]
7 When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? [Marked by their inability to recognize their inadequacy. They were self reliant thinking higher of themselves than they should, like they had it all figured out. None of us have it all figured out.] 8 Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance [True repentance that isn’t just lip service leads to fruit in our lives. I think a great question we should all ask ourselves, what would fruit look like in my life if I repented from my sins?]. 9 And don’t presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones. [Where I’ve found myself is that going to church made me think I was in the right place in life. It wasn’t. I’m not called to go to church. I’m called to be a part of the Church and that isn’t singularly defined by attending a church service.] 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove his sandals. He himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire [being baptized with the Holy Spirit signifies that we’ve been made alive, baptized with fire signifies God “burning” away the things in our life that steal life away from us]. 12 His winnowing shovel is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn. But the chaff he will burn with fire that never goes out.” [Reflection: don’t life a life that’s nothing more than chaff and the only way to do that is to live a life encompassed by Jesus.]
The Baptism of Jesus
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to stop him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you come to me?” [John readily recognizes that its him who needs Jesus, not vice versa]
15 Jesus answered him, “Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John allowed him to be baptized.
16 When Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water. [Jesus steps into the water with us, even when the religious elite are standing on the sidelines thinking they’ve got it all figured out.] The heavens suddenly opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.”